"Playing Sarah Bernhardt" and "The House at Tyneford"

Playing Sarah Bernhardt by Joan Givner

Harriet is an aging actress who is famous for playing Sarah Bernhardt. Her career goes downhill fast when memory loss leaves her forgetting her lines. After losing that role, she accepts the role of Mazo de la Roche in a small town production and begins a new life in Saskatchewan. As she is drawn into the lives of the other cast and crew members it becomes clear to her that she was hired for this particular role for a reason. In her own past lies the key to a secret about Mazo's life.

While this will never be a favourite of mine, it was good. The writing is solid and the characters are believable. What I enjoyed most was the unusual plot line. It was different from the usual story line of boy meets girl, etc, etc. It was interesting to look at the ups and downs of an actress's life and the logistics of a theater production. It seems like every novel ends up being all about the romance, so I found this one refreshing.

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

This was one of those lovely serendipitous moments when I happen across just the right book for my reading mood. I wanted a novel to get lost in for awhile, something light but not fluffy, something I wouldn't have to think about very much but it had to have writing and characters that wouldn't have me rolling my eyes before the end of the first chapter. I'm finding it harder and harder to find books like that. There are lots of light reads out there but they're too light - cotton candy light, completely lacking substance. I'm utterly sick of those books but this one, ah this one was just about perfect. The characters were quite well-rounded, the story was interesting and the writing was good. Best of all for me was the setting of an old English manor house. I don't know what it is, but I adore books in which the house is almost the main character. There's something about the connection that people form with their homes that gets to me every time.

Elise is 19 years old and living in Vienna in 1939. When Austria becomes too dangerous for Jewish people she leaves her family and their upper class life to become a parlour maid in England. The family she works for has a son so you can guess where that's going, though it's best not to take too much for granted as this isn't just a romance. With Elise's parents still in danger in Vienna and England on the brink of war, life gets complicated for everyone involved and the plot doesn't always go in the direction you're expecting. That makes it worth reading.


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